Gourmet Rhapsody

I loved this small treat of a book. It makes me sad to read reviews that say there is no story here. The main character’s life is a story that is revealed bit by bit through is own memories and the thoughts of those around him. Barbery used very short passages to maximum effect. I found myself developing genuine sympathies for characters only given a brief page and a half of voice. And the life unfolded throughout the book in a flawed, colorful, haphazard way that felt genuinely human…. Not only was his story revealed, bit by bit, but there’s a whole constellation of questions here about human behavior, thought and feeling. How could this genius have so many perceptions of food and appreciate the people around him so little? Is is wife to be pitied? Despised? Why did he behave better toward his dog? Should his children feel obligated to see him on his deathbed? Even if he did not love them? Why does he cherish some human flaws and not others? How can he enjoy writing scathing reviews about imperfect food and also yearn for those simple or flawed snacks that bring back cherished memories?

At 156 scant pages I’m not sure Gourmet Rhapsody is a novel. It does have florid language and does not have a linear story. It just so happens that the language made me smile, the characterization of food made me happy, and the character portraits made me thoughtful. So while I understand the criticism levied against this book, I can’t deny that I was utterly satisfied.

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